Is Judson Phillips Really a Tea Party Leader?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 6 2010 1:31 PM

Is Judson Phillips Really a Tea Party Leader?

On Google News, I count 225 stories reporting the news that "Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips has written a letter urging Sarah Palin to consider running for RNC chair." This follows the news that Phillips mulled about limiting the vote to property owners. That followed the news that Phillips wanted Keith Ellison out of Congress because he's a Muslim.

The thing about these stories is that what Phillips says is news because he's considered a Tea Party leader. This is strange; it's tough to find active Tea Party leaders who consider Phillips one of the key players. He's been controversial since first staking a claim for movement leadership in 2009, founding Tea Party Nation then organizing a for-profit Tea Party Convention because it seemed like no one else was. He got Sarah Palin to speak at the convention (for a fee), turning it into a media event. He and spokesman Mark Skoda announced a PAC at the convention, and plans for another convention in the summer.

Advertisement

But the PAC, Ensuring Liberty , vanished without a trace. The second convention was delayed, then cancelled. Phillips did not gain new credibility with Tea Party Patriots, FreedomWorks, and other groups that opted out of Nashville.

"In my opinion Judson Phillips is a profiteering wanna be," said Robin Stublen, founder of the Punta Gorda, Fla. Tea Party. "He is irrelevant."

I checked in with Everett Wilkinson, a South Florida Tea Party leader with whom Stublen rarely agrees. Same answer. "He has a website and radio show," Wilkinson shrugged. "None of the tea party leaders I know follow him. Did you notice that the his last convention was canceled because no one was coming?"

I included Phillips in my Tea Party who's who, published before the election. He runs the group that put on the Tea Party Convention. But it's worth asking where the credibility of a "Tea Party leader" comes from. The status shifts constantly, but it has a lot to do with who plays with the rest of the movement and puts skin in the game in elections and legislative battles. And Phillips does not impress Tea Partiers on any of those levels.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.